The horizon is not so far as we can see, but as far as we can imagine

Tag: Jacobin Magazine

The Left-wing Case for Brexit

Jacobin recently had an excellent article on left-wing Brexit, which I suggest you read. But this is the graf I want to focus on:

for a Corbyn-led Labour government, not being a member of the European Union “solves more problems than it creates,” as Weeks notes. He is referring to the fact that many aspects of Corbyn’s manifesto — such as the renationalization of mail, rail, and energy firms and developmental support to specific companies — or other policies that a future Labour government may decide to implement, such as the adoption of capital controls, would be hard to implement under EU law and would almost certainly be challenged by the European Commission and European Court of Justice. After all, the EU was created with the precise intention of permanently outlawing such “radical” policies.

That is why Corbyn must resist the pressure from all quarters — first and foremost within his own party — to back a “soft Brexit.”

This is the issue. As Jacobin’s European editor wrote:

I have pointed this out multiple times before. The European Union, in its current form (post-Maastricht) is neoliberal at its core. The Euro (which Britain at least did not adopt) was also intended to break local labor power and gut wages.

Watching the EU break Greece upon the wheel to bail out German bankers indirectly, so that they wouldn’t be seen to directly bail them out ought to have been the corpse on everyone’s doorstep that alerted people to the fact that the people running the EU, are, in certain ways, really, really bad people.

The main reason to fear Brexit isn’t “economic apocalypse,” it’s that the EU elites will do everything they can to make Britain pay to send a message.

In other words, mafia logic: “Once you’re part of the family, you don’t ever leave.”

I agree with Jacobin: Britain’s best hope of an economy which works for most Britons is Jeremy Corbyn becoming Prime Minister and instituting the policies he has said he would. Moreover, having this work is the best hope for the left in a world where all major multinational institutions and treaties are coercively neoliberal–intended to take economic decision-making out of the hands of voters and to enable free movement of capital above all other considerations.

None of this is to say that Brexit will be without some dangers and costs, but those dangers are mostly of the “save us from ourselves” variety: Tories and Blairite Labour MPs are even nastier than EU elites. And the loss of the ability to work freely on the continent, or for continentals to work freely in Britain is also a loss (though one that need not be inevitable).

But equally, the EU makes it impossible to pursue a lot of actual left-wing policies.

You can have the EU, or you can move to the left.

It’s that simple.

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Did Syriza get owned?

The details of the Syriza request to the Troika are here, for those who want to read the actual list. The public statement is here.

The best analysis I’ve read of the deal, as compared to Syriza promises, is by Stathis Kouvelakis, in the Jacobin Magazine.

Kouvelakis makes the case, convincingly to me, that Syriza caved, and got virtually nothing of what it wanted.  Here is a summary of what Syriza wanted:

Not consenting to any supervisory or assessment procedures, it requested a four-month transitional “bridge program,” without austerity measures, to secure liquidity and implement at least part of its program within balanced budgets. It also asked that lenders recognize the non-viability of the debt and the need for an immediate new round of across-the-board negotiations.

But the final agreement amounts to a point-by-point rejection of all these demands.


In the Eurogroup’s Friday statement, the existing program is referred to as an “arrangement,” but this changes absolutely nothing essential. The “extension” that the Greek side is now requesting (under the “Master Financial Assistance Facility Agreement”) is to be enacted “in the framework of the existing arrangement” and aims at “successful completion of the review on the basis of the conditions in the current arrangement.”

Kouvelakis goes through the agreement point by point, and backs up his argument.  You should read the entire piece.  More important than proving the obvious (that Syriza got virtually nothing) is why.

The question that emerges, of course, is how we landed in this quandary. How is it possible that, only a few weeks after the historic result of January 25, we have this countermanding of the popular mandate for the overthrow of the memorandum?

The answer is simple: what collapsed in the last two weeks is a specific strategic option that has underlaid the entire approach of SYRIZA, particularly after 2012: the strategy that excluded “unilateral moves” such as suspension of payments…

Kouvelakis calls part of this the “good euro” strategy—the supposition that anyone in power in the Euro area wanted Syriza and Greece to get real debt relief and exist austerity.  This, as I have argued in the past, is delusion:

The key here is psychological. Greeks need to admit that their fellow Europeans do not care how badly they suffer; need to acknowledge that they are not seen as Europeans by their fellow Europeans, and need to look East and South for their survival and future prosperity.

Until Greeks get through their heads, and hearts, that the other European countries are not their friends, they will continue to suffer.

Unilateral is the key word.  Greece cannot depend on any other nation in Europe to look after its interests, let alone Germany (the very idea that the German government cares one whit how much Greeks suffer is so laughable as to move beyond fantasy into insanity).

Greece must do what it can it unilaterally.  This doesn’t mean no negotiation, but that negotiation will not be with Europe or Germany or the ECB, it will be with other countries who need what Greece has to offer enough to make a deal.

Read the Jacobin article.  And understand what just happened, because as Kouvelakis notes the only thing worse than defeat is pretending it was victory.

None of this means that victory is not still possible.  But it is only possible if Syriza spends the next few months planning moves which do not require Europe’s approval.

I genuinely hope they do.  The sooner they do, the sooner Greeks will be better off (though yes, the transition will be painful), and the sooner the current European and World system, which is causing so much unnecessary suffering, will end.

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